The road to sleep is a bumpy. As babies navigate each growth “bump” and “curve” filled with the new developmental milestones between 4 & 6 months, there are going to be “deep valleys” filled with sleep disruptions. These milestones include growing teeth, learning to roll, crawl, sit, pull to stand, discovery of their feet, a new vowel/consonant sound.
There are several key components when it comes to a baby’s sleep. The first is the ability to self sooth. A baby will cry (signal) when they wake until they learn to fall back asleep on their own. Some babies learn this on their own, while MANY others need our help as they move from being “signalers” to “soothers”. Allowing for some supervised struggle (cry) for a few naps and nighttime sleep gives them the time and opportunity to learn to fall back asleep. After a few sessions of these “struggle opportunities,” babies typically start sleeping better. Techniques and tools such as a blankie (aka lovey) may be used to help babies in their journey to self soothing.
A baby’s sleep cycle is around 40-50 minutes and it’s important to note that even when they sleep for a few cycles (naps) and many cycles (sleeping through the night), they are still waking up in between cycles. However they can fall back asleep on their own if they are still tired. This is because they have learned to self sooth and can listen to themselves and their own needs rather than being dependent on the caregiver to sooth them to sleep, typically with food. As they get more practice sleeping and get more comfortable with their independence, they will be able to have deeper sleep. With the deeper sleep comes the ability to more easily put themselves back to sleep and thus stay asleep. Until of course they hit a previously mentioned “bumps” or “curves” which can be disruptive and result in the night-waking (“signaling”) to start all over again! Unfortunately it can be a vicious cycle and this“sleep road” is longer for some babies than others.
The next key component to sleeping through the night is to recognize that it all start with the daytime routine! The naps during the day help protect the sleep at night. The more time dedicated to helping a baby regulate their daytime feeding and sleeping schedule, the sooner the baby will regulate their nighttime sleep patterns. This is why it’s important to start your day at approximately the same time every morning. Yes, this means waking the baby up even he or she is asleep. Otherwise they will “push the day” which means that the naps, and ultimately their bedtime, will get pushed.
Waking a sleeping baby is done in a very gentle manner. We first open the bedroom door, move around the room, put clothes away, re-stocking your diaper stack, open the shades, turn on some music, etc. If this doesn’t do the trick, then move to their crib and begin to stroke their body with deep pressure and long strokes. They will probably start to stretch so move your hands with the stretch. Do this quietly until they open their eyes. Then start your very soft, gentle talking.
What’s a good time to get them up?
Between 6 and 8am…depending on your daily schedule.
Most babies start the day between 630 and 7am on their own…so the closer you wake them to this time (630/7am), the easier it will be in establishing your baby’s daily routine. Let’s say you want to start with a 7am wake up…but your baby wakes at 630am…crying and crying. Listen to the cry…if it seems like you need to respond, then go in…keeping your own eyes half-closed, making little to no eye contact…ssssh them, hand them their transitional object (i.e., little blankie—“comfort silkie”) and walk back out. Do this until their 7am wake up time.